NEW HAVEN — Preventing weight gain obesity, and ultimately diabetes could be as simple as keeping a nuclear receptor from being activated in a small part of the brain, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers.

Published in the August 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI), the study showed that when the researchers blocked the effects of the nuclear receptor PPARgamma in a small number of brain cells in mice, the animals ate less and became resistant to a high-fat diet.

“These animals ate fat and sugar, and did not gain weight, while their control littermates gained weight on the same diet,” reports lead author Sabrina Diano, a professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at the med school. “We showed that the PPARgamma receptor in neurons that produce POMC could control responses to a high-fat diet without resulting in obesity.”

Diano and her team studied transgenic mice that were genetically engineered to delete the PPARgamma receptor from POMC neurons. They wanted to see if they could prevent the obesity associated with a high-fat, high-sugar diet.

The findings may have key implications in diabetes. PPARgamma is a target of thiazolidinedione (TZD), a class of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes. They lower blood-glucose levels, but patients gain weight on these medications.